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Beautiful Country: A Memoir

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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A TODAY SHOW #READWITHJENNA BOOK CLUB PICK! • The moving story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world—an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent “Heartrending, unvarnished, and powerfully courageous, this account of growing up undocumented in America will never leave you.” —Gish Jen, author of Th NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A TODAY SHOW #READWITHJENNA BOOK CLUB PICK! • The moving story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world—an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent “Heartrending, unvarnished, and powerfully courageous, this account of growing up undocumented in America will never leave you.” —Gish Jen, author of The Resisters In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive. In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all. But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here. Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.


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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A TODAY SHOW #READWITHJENNA BOOK CLUB PICK! • The moving story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world—an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent “Heartrending, unvarnished, and powerfully courageous, this account of growing up undocumented in America will never leave you.” —Gish Jen, author of Th NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A TODAY SHOW #READWITHJENNA BOOK CLUB PICK! • The moving story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world—an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent “Heartrending, unvarnished, and powerfully courageous, this account of growing up undocumented in America will never leave you.” —Gish Jen, author of The Resisters In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive. In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all. But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here. Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.

30 review for Beautiful Country: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Qian

    i’m a little biased 🙃

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    If you ever want to feel EXTRA grateful for what you have, this book might be perfect for you. Imagine a seven-year-old girl in China who’s living a happy, simple life with friends and family who look and live like her. Now, two years after her father fled China for America, or ‘Mei Guo’ - ‘the beautiful country’, she and her mother are leaving the only home they’ve ever known to join him there. Imagine the culture shock: people of all different colors, your senses overwhelmed by the new and unkn If you ever want to feel EXTRA grateful for what you have, this book might be perfect for you. Imagine a seven-year-old girl in China who’s living a happy, simple life with friends and family who look and live like her. Now, two years after her father fled China for America, or ‘Mei Guo’ - ‘the beautiful country’, she and her mother are leaving the only home they’ve ever known to join him there. Imagine the culture shock: people of all different colors, your senses overwhelmed by the new and unknown, and embedded into this bewildering experience is FEAR. You live with constant, daily fear of being discovered and sent back if someone doesn’t believe the cover story that your father has drilled into you that you were born in America and have always lived here. Qian Julie Wang has written an eye-opening debut memoir told through the lens of her youth, that is an incredible and often heartbreaking view of her life growing up as an illegal immigrant in New York City. Her proud parents were reduced from educated, capable professionals in China, to people living in NYC’s shadows - her mother finding work in a sweatshop, among other menial jobs, and her father doing laundry work for barely livable wages. They had to rely on others in their situation or those willing to turn a blind eye, but they could never truly live openly and freely. Wang’s account of her formative years is straight-up traumatic - punctuated by racist treatment from adults and peers alike, an initial complete lack of English skills, daily unrelenting hunger and the stigma of suffocating poverty, life in a tiny share house apartment with no privacy, and her parents’ increasingly contentious marriage. As an only child with few opportunities for real friendship, her relationship with her parents, Baba and Mama, is especially difficult to read about since they were often in an emotional fog or occasionally turned their frustrations on her. You feel her loneliness and the struggle of how to perceive these people who simultaneously love her and hurt her. It’s not an easy read and my only downside is just the gloom inherent in a story like this, but the sun did emerge from the clouds, so to speak. It was uplifting to watch Qian teach herself English through watching PBS shows and reading library books, and to see her use her education to eventually overcome her dismal circumstances. I had a whole new appreciation for the book’s title by the end. A beautiful debut! ★★★★ ½ (rounded to 4) Thanks to Doubleday Books, Netgalley and author Qian Julie Wang for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinions. It will be published on Sept. 7, 2021.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Woodward

    **Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday and Qian Julie Wang for an ARC of this book! Now available as of 9.7!** On that run, only one thing kept pace with me, and it was not hunger. It was fear. Fear was all I tasted; fear was all I contained; fear was all I was. Young Qian Qian travels to New York City with her Ma Ma and Ba Ba, far from their success and comfort in China to seek a better life in Mei Guo ("The Beautiful Country"). Like so many, however, their journey to America not only fails to **Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday and Qian Julie Wang for an ARC of this book! Now available as of 9.7!** On that run, only one thing kept pace with me, and it was not hunger. It was fear. Fear was all I tasted; fear was all I contained; fear was all I was. Young Qian Qian travels to New York City with her Ma Ma and Ba Ba, far from their success and comfort in China to seek a better life in Mei Guo ("The Beautiful Country"). Like so many, however, their journey to America not only fails to give them the life they had before, but actually turns the tide for the worse. Qian's parents are both intelligent, professors in their own right: and yet, all America can afford them are the dark and dank confines of sweatshops and other menial labor, where Qian herself is by her mother's side to snip threads and collect coins, even at her tender age. School doesn't prove much easier for Qian, as her classmates are quick to scoff at her impoverished lifestyle, and she instead finds refuge in books, toys, and PBS shows and the occasional lucky find (Polly Pockets, for one) on the streets of New York City. As Qian deals with shady businessmen with questionable motives, Ba Ba's sometimes unbridled anger, and Ma Ma's untimely sickness, Qian fears each day could be her last in America. Can this young woman stand firm, hold steady, and find the Beautiful Country she has always envisioned...and make it her own? I have always been drawn to memoir, but I have never TRULY identified with an author the way I did with Qian. This is in part because we have so much in common: we both grew up enamored with the written word, in love with Charlotte's Web, fascinated with Polly Pockets, lusting after Tamagotchis, drawn to the easy-breezy lives of the Wakefield Twins in Sweet Valley High and the powerful friendships of the girls in the Babysitter's Club: we are even the same age! Descriptions of Qian's self doubt and isolation also rang true with me, though we have vastly different life experiences. Though I've always been 'native' to the United States, ideologically I have always felt like I didn't TRULY belong in one way or another. Qian experienced all of this: but SO much more. My heart broke over and over for her, but at the same time, I admired her unfailing resilience and determination to care for her parents and stand firm, no matter what the cost. She is a selfless and beautiful soul, and the fact that the 'rules' of a country or a sheet of paper could reduce her to a human considered "less than" in the eyes of the law is sickening to me. Her very essence even comes into question as her teacher can't comprehend that a Chinese immigrant could produce an out-of-this-world essay and assumes it MUST be plagiarized. Truly shocking, and yet, thinly veiled xenophobia hurts our nation today more than ever. This memoir is heavy, emotional, and unlike anything I've ever read before. Although I won't reveal how Qian's journey ends, the last chapter was both heart-wrenching and hopeful, and Qian's author's note nearly left me in tears. She couldn't have picked a better time to bring her story to the world and I am so grateful to have read it. Qian is a bold and brave woman who, by the end of her story, is finally allowed to define herself by what she is, rather than what she is not. An absolute stunner of a debut! Don't miss it! 4.5 ⭐, rounded up to 5

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bkwmlee

    I’m quite picky when it comes to memoirs and tend to gravitate towards those where I am able to either relate to the experiences of the author or connect with them in some way. While there are a plethora of memoirs out there, the reality is that very few of those memoirs are actually written from the perspective of someone who shares a similar background as myself — namely, a Chinese-American woman from an immigrant family who has struggled with identity and belonging her entire life. This is wh I’m quite picky when it comes to memoirs and tend to gravitate towards those where I am able to either relate to the experiences of the author or connect with them in some way. While there are a plethora of memoirs out there, the reality is that very few of those memoirs are actually written from the perspective of someone who shares a similar background as myself — namely, a Chinese-American woman from an immigrant family who has struggled with identity and belonging her entire life. This is why, when I found out about Qian Julie Wang’s memoir Beautiful Country , I knew I absolutely had to pick this one up. This powerful memoir is exactly one of those rare gems that most closely encapsulates the immigrant experience that I grew up with. Though there are obvious differences between our circumstances in terms of how are families came to America (the titular “beautiful country” as directly translated from Chinese) — for example, my family immigrated here legally while Wang’s family ended up here illegally due to an expired visa — many of the struggles that Wang recounts from her childhood are ones that I’ve also experienced. Wang tells her story starting from the perspective of her seven-year-old self, when she is told to put her most prized possessions into her grandparents’ storage unit in China so she could accompany her mother on a “flying machine” (literal translation of 飛機 or “airplane”) that eventually lands in a place called “beautiful country” (literal translation of 美國 or “America”). From the moment Wang and her mother step off the plane at JFK airport (New York) and are reunited with her father (who had gone to America two years earlier), her life is forever changed in ways that eventually shape who she becomes in adulthood. Though she didn’t know it at the time, leaving China for America meant that Wang would go from an environment where she was surrounded by extended family, unconditional love, and every comfort possible, to one where loneliness was a constant companion, familial love came with strings attached, and every day was a fight for survival at all levels (physically, mentally, emotionally). We witness Wang’s coming of age through the wide-eyed lens of a child forced to navigate a world she does not understand and where she was taught to put her head down, do as she was told, and endure whatever was thrown her way without complaint because that was the expectation of someone in her situation. While in China, Wang’s parents were highly educated professionals, in America they were reduced to working in sweatshops and other low-paying jobs that allowed them to remain in the shadows, with the constant fear of their illegal status being discovered hanging over them. The stress of their new life in a foreign country where, despite their efforts to remain invisible, they are still largely unwelcomed, takes a toll on Wang’s parents and eventually leads to the fracturing of their family. Illegal status aside though, Wang’s struggles growing up as an immigrant child resonated deeply with me — from the humiliation of a tenuous living situation where there was little to no privacy, to not being able to afford the most basic of comforts that seemed to come easily to everyone else (ie: enough food for the table, a roof over our heads, clean clothes to wear to school); to being constantly told that, no matter how hard you work to fit in or how much you contribute to your community, you will never truly belong; to the bullying and racism, both subtle and direct, that becomes an inevitable part of the immigrant experience. For me, this book was difficult to read — not because of challenging subject matter or anything like that — but because of the familiarity of Wang’s experiences and the memories they brought back of my own childhood. One experience in particular had me near tears when I read it: the scene where, in fifth grade, Wang is summoned to her (white male) teacher’s desk one day and, shown an essay she had written and submitted, is essentially accused of plagiarism because the essay was “too well written” and the English was “too good” to have been written by her. Even though she told her teacher that she truly did write the essay and didn’t plagiarize, her status meant that she was not to be believed, so after that incident, Wang would deliberately include spelling and grammatical errors in all her essays to avoid having to endure a similar confrontation with her teacher in the future. This scene resonated with me in particular because this was a common experience for me throughout my entire elementary and middle school education: being told that something I wrote couldn’t possibly have been written by me because the English was “too good” and that I must have copied it from elsewhere. As a result, I also started deliberately including “errors” in my writing to avoid confrontation. Luckily, I later attended a high school and college that embraced diversity and eventually recognized my efforts (though the shaken confidence in how I view my writing is something that I still carry with me to this day). This was truly a profound and emotional read for me, one that I know will stay with me for a long time to come. Even though reading this memoir brought back some unhappy memories for me, I appreciate the fact that a book like this one exists. While I am buoyed by the knowledge that our country has come a long way in terms of racial diversity and acceptance, at the same time, I am saddened by the obvious steps backwards that we as a society have also taken in this area, over the past few years especially. Now more than ever, we need books like this one that can hopefully help open people’s eyes to the plight that so many in our society experience — a timely read that I absolutely recommend! Received ARC from Doubleday Books via Edelweiss.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Five stars! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Thank you to Doubleday for the gifted copy. I both read and listened to this gorgeous memoir. I especially love a memoir narrated by the author. In Chinese, the word for America directly translates to “beautiful country.” Qian and her family arrive in NYC when she’s seven years old. Her parents were professors in China, and here they are undocumented and fighting to survive. Now Qian’s parents are forced to work in sweatshops for low wages. Qian struggles in school, esp Five stars! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Thank you to Doubleday for the gifted copy. I both read and listened to this gorgeous memoir. I especially love a memoir narrated by the author. In Chinese, the word for America directly translates to “beautiful country.” Qian and her family arrive in NYC when she’s seven years old. Her parents were professors in China, and here they are undocumented and fighting to survive. Now Qian’s parents are forced to work in sweatshops for low wages. Qian struggles in school, especially socially, because she is learning English. She is most at home in the library where she learns the language through books and reading. Just as Qian begins to “fit in” and feel at home, her mother becomes very ill, something she’s hidden for months. Beautiful Country is the story of an often invisible family, with loving parents empowering their daughter to dream. Flawlessly written with profound messages, I lack the words other than to tell you this is an important must-read. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    "In the vacuum of anxiety that was undocumented life, fear was gaseous: it expanded to fill our entire world until it was all we could breathe." In Mandarin, the name for America is 'Mei Guo', which translates literally into 'Beautiful Country'. However, as many find out, America is anything but beautiful for countless people.  At the age of seven, Wang Qian moved with her mother to New York City where her father had been living for two years. They came on a visitor's visa... and stayed. Though he "In the vacuum of anxiety that was undocumented life, fear was gaseous: it expanded to fill our entire world until it was all we could breathe." In Mandarin, the name for America is 'Mei Guo', which translates literally into 'Beautiful Country'. However, as many find out, America is anything but beautiful for countless people.  At the age of seven, Wang Qian moved with her mother to New York City where her father had been living for two years. They came on a visitor's visa... and stayed. Though her parents were professors in China and they lived a comfortable lifestyle, in America they had to resort to menial, low wage jobs. Qian writes about her childhood, both in China and later in New York. They lived in a one room apartment, sharing a bathroom and kitchen with the other tenants of the building. She often went hungry as her parents could not afford much. They lived in constant fear of being found out and deported. Young Qian strived to fit in and become American, wanting to speak perfect English so that no one would suspect she hadn't been born in the US.  This is an interesting memoir. I like to read about people whose lives are very different from my own, and it's always good to learn the struggles people face, in order to be more compassionate.  This is well-written and engaging and yet I'm left with questions. Qian never explains why her parents moved to the US in the first place, why they stayed when they were so much better off in China. At first I thought perhaps her father, having complained about not being able to speak freely in China, had gotten into trouble with the authorities and fled the country. However, that can't be the case because they later went back to visit family.  It didn't make any sense to me because at one point, Qian and her mother up and move to Canada. It's not explained how she gets papers, or even if she did.... though I assume she did because she went through customs agents to get into the country and shortly thereafter was able to secure papers for her husband and to travel to China.  They were living as undocumented people for years in America and then - wah-la! - magically procured Canadian papers and moved there. It just doesn't add up. And again, why stay in America when their lives were so miserable and poverty-stricken if they had been living better in China? Perhaps they didn't have money for airfare, but all they would have needed to do is make themselves known to the authorities and they'd have been put on a plane back to China. I kept waiting for answers that never came. Perhaps Qian doesn't feel like she should explain for her parents and perhaps it's not really my business to know. But it just left me feeling like I got an incomplete story. The author's evading the issue makes me feel like I'm being lied to, makes me wonder how much of the story is real and how much is embellishment.  I'm torn between giving this three or four stars. It probably would be five if it wasn't for all these questions I'm left with. However, it did keep my attention and was hard to put down. No matter the circumstances, Qian struggled as a child, both with hunger and poverty and with trying to fit in when people, even teachers, treated her badly and as a stereotype. Her resilience is remarkable, and questions or not, I'm left feeling more compassion for the plight of immigrants, both documented and not. 

  7. 5 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    Through the eyes of a child, the experiences of being an undocumented immigrant will leap off the page and into your heart in this unforgettable memoir. In 1994, Qian Julie Wang arrives in America with her mother (Ma Ma) to join her father (Ba Ba) who has come before them. He could no longer stay in a country where he did not have freedom of expression. Both of Qian’s parents were professors in China yet their education and background became meaningless and their comfortable life disappears once Through the eyes of a child, the experiences of being an undocumented immigrant will leap off the page and into your heart in this unforgettable memoir. In 1994, Qian Julie Wang arrives in America with her mother (Ma Ma) to join her father (Ba Ba) who has come before them. He could no longer stay in a country where he did not have freedom of expression. Both of Qian’s parents were professors in China yet their education and background became meaningless and their comfortable life disappears once they have to start anew in Mei Guo, America – the “Beautiful Country.” Harsh living conditions, hunger, sweatshops, racism and the daily fear of being found and deported become their new reality. Through it all, Qian teaches herself English and escapes into books. Their struggle seems hopeless. Yet the family’s incredible determination and resiliency moves them closer to fulfilling their dream of a better life. Beautiful Country – A Memoir is a remarkable debut for the author, a Yale educated lawyer who had the courage to tell her story, which at times is hard to believe took place such a short time ago as the working conditions and squalor often read like a Dickens novel. Yet this is a very timely story that is especially relevant today as people continue to seek freedom. Many thanks to Doubleday Books, NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read Beautiful Country in advance of its September 7, 2021 release. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Rated 4.5 stars. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Gandhi

    3.5 stars. Immigration and illegal immigrants is a hot topic right now. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of beliefs with this subject, one thing I think we can all agree on is that no child should starve or be scared for their life on a daily basis. This point is something that is painfully highlighted in this book. Qian Julie Wang’s parents came to America looking for a better life. Her parents were educated, held high profile professional jobs in China and were even published authors. 3.5 stars. Immigration and illegal immigrants is a hot topic right now. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of beliefs with this subject, one thing I think we can all agree on is that no child should starve or be scared for their life on a daily basis. This point is something that is painfully highlighted in this book. Qian Julie Wang’s parents came to America looking for a better life. Her parents were educated, held high profile professional jobs in China and were even published authors. Yet here they were forced to live the “undocumented” life and worked for pennies in sweatshops. They led a life of poverty, starvation, humiliation, exploitation and trauma. This book pulls back the curtains to give you a glimpse of the horror her family faced just to survive. It took a lot of courage to write this book. Even though now she is legal, there is still that scared little girl hiding in the shadows who is terrified of being deported. But also, Wang is very open and honest about the good, bad and ugly parts of her and her life. As a mother, my heart broke every time her stomach rumbled with hunger, every time she blamed herself for her parent’s situation, every time she was made fun of for not speaking English correctly, every time she feared her mother or father might not come home, every time she feared she might not come home. This was her life at an age when she should have Barbie dolls and ballet lessons and play dates with her girl friends at the playground. My criticism of the book is that it really stops with her at 6th grade and jumps to her being an adult. There’s a lot of story there I think would have been fascinating to read and learn. Also, while heartbreaking, at times in the book I didn’t connect emotionally with her the way I feel I should have. Either way, this book made me reflect on the life I’ve had and other sides of the immigration debate I honestly didn’t know (specifically the day to day life of an undocumented immigrant). I am thankful Wang was brave enough to share her story with the world. My thanks to Qian Julie Wang, Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bettys Book Club

    Ugly memoir... I think reading memoirs is an amazing way to develop empathy and learn about different cultures and life experiences. Crying in H Mart and Aftershocks are two prime examples of excellent memoirs that will teach you about culture through the lens of young women. I was hoping Beautiful Country would bring the same level of insight, sadness and reflection, but unfortunately it was a huge miss for me. Here are my critiques: Wang only writes about her life until she’s in the sixth grade. Ugly memoir... I think reading memoirs is an amazing way to develop empathy and learn about different cultures and life experiences. Crying in H Mart and Aftershocks are two prime examples of excellent memoirs that will teach you about culture through the lens of young women. I was hoping Beautiful Country would bring the same level of insight, sadness and reflection, but unfortunately it was a huge miss for me. Here are my critiques: Wang only writes about her life until she’s in the sixth grade. The last chapter is an insanely quick summary of her life after she was a tween. I’m sorry but a memoir doesn’t end at 12 years-old. It’s a lot of the same sad story. Her parents moved from China to NYC when Wang was very young and the majority of her childhood recount is working in sweatshops, starving and reading books in the bathroom. While it is a heartbreaking story it doesn’t really evolve out of a few narratives. Half of the book is about how Wang’s parents didn’t feed her properly and her dreaming about the food she would like to eat. At the end of the novel, and in Wang’s tweens, they move to Canada because they had enough of how the U.S. treated undocument immigrants. Canada welcomes them with open arms and Wang just glosses over this. There is no detail of her time here. She just focused the whole book on her negative experiences in NYC. Wang does become a successful lawyer but you wouldn’t know it because she doesn’t write it! I had to find out in an interview AND she moved back to NYC! This annoys me to no end being a Canadian, so many people (primarily in entertainment) dump Canada for its sexier neighbour. I wanted to hear her success story, whether she attributes her life now to America, Canada or even herself. I want the full story and I felt cheated by the end of this. It’s definitely a book that could spark some interesting book club conversations because you can’t avoid discussing U.S. immigration.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I read this book in two days. Qian Julie Wang captured my heart with her beautifully written memoir of growing up as an undocumented immigrant. I was heartbroken by the racism and disconcern that left her family in dire poverty. Her parents were educated professionals in China, her mother a math professor and her father an English literature professor. In America, they worked as menial laborers. In China, Qian was a fearless, intelligent, tomboy. In America, her teacher accused her of plagiarism, I read this book in two days. Qian Julie Wang captured my heart with her beautifully written memoir of growing up as an undocumented immigrant. I was heartbroken by the racism and disconcern that left her family in dire poverty. Her parents were educated professionals in China, her mother a math professor and her father an English literature professor. In America, they worked as menial laborers. In China, Qian was a fearless, intelligent, tomboy. In America, her teacher accused her of plagiarism, unable to accept her gift with words. Qian's father had believed in the myth of American freedom. In China, he was punished for independent thinking. He left his wife and child for America, and it was years before they could join him.  Fear of being discovered kept them caged in poverty. When Qian's mother gains a degree, she can\'t work without proper paperwork.  Qian did not see the 'beautiful' country for a long time. The trauma of her childhood haunted her. When her family relocates to Canada, their lives improve. They were welcome. They had free health care and found appropriate work. Qian received a good education that prepared her for Swarthmore College and Yale Law School. As a girl, Qian found solace in books. "I read until my loneliness dulled, and I felt myself to be in the good company of all my vibrantly colored, two-dimensional friends. I read until excitement replaced hopelessness," she writes. She bristled when a teacher pushed her to read 'boy' books as more 'worthwhile' than the stories of girl's lives. She found role models such as Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg who taught her that you did not have to be a white male to succeed. Their family trauma began in China during the Cultural Revolution when her father was a small child who observed his brother arrested, his parents beaten. At school, he was berated and tormented. "Half a century and a migration across the world later, it would take therapy's slow and arduous unraveling for me to see that the thread of trauma was woven into every fiber of my family, my childhood," Qian writes. Qian dreams of a day when all people are treated humanely. She writes so others know they are not alone and they can also survive and even flourish. I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased. 

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nidhi Shrivastava

    Qin Julia Wang's Beautiful Country is truly a one-of-a-kind memoir and I couldn't recommend it more to everyone who wants to learn more about immigrant narratives. Following the footsteps of authors such as Patricia Engel's latest novel, Infinite Country, this memoir moved me. As a young girl, I could relate to Wang's love for reading books in the library (and the fear of book stores), her struggles to adjust to life in the US after her parents were from China. While she does not explicitly delv Qin Julia Wang's Beautiful Country is truly a one-of-a-kind memoir and I couldn't recommend it more to everyone who wants to learn more about immigrant narratives. Following the footsteps of authors such as Patricia Engel's latest novel, Infinite Country, this memoir moved me. As a young girl, I could relate to Wang's love for reading books in the library (and the fear of book stores), her struggles to adjust to life in the US after her parents were from China. While she does not explicitly delve deeper into the political environment that her family faced during the Cultural Revolution, it is clear that the socio-political environment has affected her worldview. The most touching moments in this novel are surrounding Wang and her endearing relationship with her mother. Throughout the memoir, it is clear that Wang sees her mother as an inspiration, who in spite of facing numerous challenges, is both resilient and resourceful in her nature. The precarity of Wang's situation was moving - not knowing if she could ever be deported if it was found that her family was illegally staying in the US. I think what I loved the most about this book is that it touches on the question of how we see refugees/migrants in our current political climate globally. There are currently debates on the placement of Afgan refugees, which is causing debates on national media sphere. Overall, I loved Wang's memoir and would happily teach it as well! Thank you to @Netgalley and the author for providing me with a digital arc of the memoir!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang is a pure and unique perspective of being an undocumented immigrant as told through the eyes of a child. Qian moved to the United States when she was seven. Her life in China before the move is told in a way that I could feel through her words the loss she felt leaving everything that she's ever known and the apprehension she felt moving forward to a new country. However, a strong family will prevail even when their situation is subject to deportation around Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang is a pure and unique perspective of being an undocumented immigrant as told through the eyes of a child. Qian moved to the United States when she was seven. Her life in China before the move is told in a way that I could feel through her words the loss she felt leaving everything that she's ever known and the apprehension she felt moving forward to a new country. However, a strong family will prevail even when their situation is subject to deportation around every corner. There were times when it was so tense that I found myself holding my breath. It is drilled into her what to say, which people are trustworthy and those who are not. Navigating this new life in a country where the language is unfamiliar and trying to find her space was gut wrenching when I tried to put myself in her shoes. It's a hard, rough road trying to make ends meet. This is timely book as immigration has taken up headlines; it puts a sensitive and human touch to a subject that may seem to be only on the news. Thank you NetGalley, Doubleday, and Qian Julie Wang for sharing her story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    4.5 stars This was a book that I could have sat down and read in a day or I could read a little bit every day and reflect. I chose the latter and I think that was the right decision for me. Qian Julie Wang came to America when she was 7, two years after her Baba had already left China in order to make a better life for their family where he didn't have to worry about being taken away by the police for speaking out against the government. The reality is that when she arrived, they had to hide who 4.5 stars This was a book that I could have sat down and read in a day or I could read a little bit every day and reflect. I chose the latter and I think that was the right decision for me. Qian Julie Wang came to America when she was 7, two years after her Baba had already left China in order to make a better life for their family where he didn't have to worry about being taken away by the police for speaking out against the government. The reality is that when she arrived, they had to hide who they were because of the fear of being deported for being undocumented. Thus, her father, who was an English Professor, was now working menial jobs for very little, and her mother, who was a Mathematics Professor worked in sweatshops, often joined by 7-year-old Qian. The extreme racism they experienced, not just by Americans, but also by Cantonese (who looked on Mandarin-speaking Chinese as beneath them) was often appalling, but not exactly surprising. The fear of being discovered kept them in a cage of extreme poverty and changed what had been a very happy marriage and family into one that was often contaminated with fear, anger, and depression. the school she attended for elementary school was not any better as she experienced bullying and taunts from the other students. She dealt with words that constantly tore her down, not just from the students, but from teachers (one in particular who just about accused her of plagiarism because he didn't believe she could write something as amazing as she did), and even from her own father. As you can imagine, she internalized many of these voices, which led to her either lying about things or hiding things, including what must have been a fractured wrist. In the midst of all this, her mother because seriously ill and it took all she could to force herself to call 911 to get help. Through all of this, words and books became her best friend and ultimately, they are probably what saved her and inspired her to reach for her dreams. Her writing is filled with the emotions of her young 7-12-year-old selves, whether it's anger, fear, anxiety, depression, laughter, confidence, etc. Although the writing is occasionally uneven, I thought that this was an amazing book for a debut author and I can tell she has a wonderful relationship with words. I think this is a book that everyone should read as it helps us to see the perspective of the undocumented. Ultimately, they are as human as anyone else, and they are just trying to create as good a life for themselves and their children, just like those who are citizens. It was extra humbling to see how their experience with Canada was completely different from their initial experience with America. Eventually, she made it back to America to attend law school and she met a Judge who ended up inspiring her and mentoring her as she began her law career and I believe it led to her telling her story. For many years, her initial time in America was something she stomped down and hid not just from the world, but from herself as well. I hope that more people will read this book and perhaps change their minds about the undocumented. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Savitri (IG: bookishcatsavant)

    Thank you to the author, publisher & NetGalley for gifting me an e-copy of this powerful memoir! —— I requested this book thinking it was a fiction immigrant story. I generally don’t request memoirs to publishers because who am I to rate someone else’s life story? So it automatically gets 5 stars from me. That being said, this is the perfect memoir for people to realize that sometimes people immigrate from their homeland where they had everything but still sacrifice it all because an oppressive go Thank you to the author, publisher & NetGalley for gifting me an e-copy of this powerful memoir! —— I requested this book thinking it was a fiction immigrant story. I generally don’t request memoirs to publishers because who am I to rate someone else’s life story? So it automatically gets 5 stars from me. That being said, this is the perfect memoir for people to realize that sometimes people immigrate from their homeland where they had everything but still sacrifice it all because an oppressive government got in their way. As an immigrant myself, I have heard the stereotype countless times that people move to a developed nation for better prospects and to send money back to their families. This book perfectly shuts down that argument. The author’s parents had highly respectable jobs in China and lost it all when they moved to The States. In many ways, their fear, trauma and oppression continued in their adopted country, albeit for different reasons. The book is narrated from the perspective of the author and you learn how she navigates from childhood, a tremendously complex system of trying to please her parents and their set ways, trying to fit in her new home all while trying to find an identity for herself. If you’re an immigrant, this book will speak volumes to you no matter your trajectory. Even though I did not have to go through a lot of the things that the author did, I feel heard from some of the tiniest things that she experienced. If you’re not an immigrant, I absolutely recommend this book to you so you can understand the privileges that immigrants don’t have, even before they reach the United States (in this case, from the moment the author and her mother set foot in the consulate and got declined many times and had to prove each time that they’re worthy of their visa).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    What can anyone say about truly great art—that is, about masterpieces in general? I think that every great work of art leaves you with the sense that its creator has somehow distilled a vast, complex subject into a simple yet profound truth that cannot be expressed in ordinary language. Not without sounding cliché, anyway. That is how I feel about Beautiful Country. The prose is incredible: sparse, confident, humorous, and affectionate. The author’s perspective is unique, not only in terms of her What can anyone say about truly great art—that is, about masterpieces in general? I think that every great work of art leaves you with the sense that its creator has somehow distilled a vast, complex subject into a simple yet profound truth that cannot be expressed in ordinary language. Not without sounding cliché, anyway. That is how I feel about Beautiful Country. The prose is incredible: sparse, confident, humorous, and affectionate. The author’s perspective is unique, not only in terms of her worldview and lived experiences, but in a stylistic sense as well. Qian’s narrative voice changes with her age and rapidly improving English. Even her height seems baked into the book’s visual descriptions. Indeed, we never see something unless young Qian would have seen it: clerks behind countertops are glimpsed only at the apex of a jump and crowds are experienced at the height of an adult’s waist. But there is a lot of great prose out there. Beautiful Country does more. With this memoir, Qian Julie Wang has fired a flare into a dark night’s sky. The color is beautiful, but it is irrelevant to the message: you are not alone. Whatever childhood shames you still carry, from secret acts of petty selfishness to the ineluctable shortcomings of a parent’s best intentions, Wang has been there—we have all been there. No matter how different we may appear from one another, we have all experienced the pain and elation of childhood. When you see a signal like that, you do not resume your lonesome stargazing. You get up, dust yourself off, and push on towards the source of the flare. It sounds cliché, but when you have read Beautiful Country, you will know better what it means to love the stranger among you.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    In Chinese, America’s name is Mei Guo. The direct translation of the symbols for “Mei Guo” is “beautiful country”. Qian Wang’s experience coming to America as a young child is far from beautiful, filled with trauma, but her story is certainly beautifully told. Starting with her earliest memories and continuing on until the moments she finally felt at “home”, Qian walks us through the struggles, emotions, fears, and joys she experienced as an illegal immigrant in NYC during the 1980s. I loved how In Chinese, America’s name is Mei Guo. The direct translation of the symbols for “Mei Guo” is “beautiful country”. Qian Wang’s experience coming to America as a young child is far from beautiful, filled with trauma, but her story is certainly beautifully told. Starting with her earliest memories and continuing on until the moments she finally felt at “home”, Qian walks us through the struggles, emotions, fears, and joys she experienced as an illegal immigrant in NYC during the 1980s. I loved how approachable her writing is, how she described her moments through the eyes of herself as child but with just enough insight as an adult to complete the settings; Every creepy guy, every deportation scare, every sweatshop she worked in were understood and believed. I read that she wrote this while riding the subway to work each day. I find that amazing! I certainly could use a little if that ambition in my life. I recommend this book to any reader who loves to hear interesting, well-written stories from real people. This is an incredibly real story. 💕

  17. 4 out of 5

    Queralt✨

    My Bachelor’s thesis was about the Chinese American experience and portrayal in media, therefore I read a lot about what Chinese experienced in the US. Because of this, this memoir wasn’t something *new*, but it was touching nonetheless - especially seeing the author struggle fitting in and sorting out her identity. Highly recommend the audiobook, it is narrated by the author herself.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Basic B's Guide

    Captivating, intimate and heartbreaking this is a fantastic debut. I’m so glad I took the time to listen to this memoir (as told by the author). This is no doubt a story that will stay with me long after. Thank you PRH Audio for the alc.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Who can forget the iconic picture of the Afghan baby being passed over the wall into the waiting arms of the Marine Soldiers? Who could forget the anguished looks of parents trying to get their children and themselves to safety in order to secure a better life. Qian's book describing her resettlement in NYC from China aroused similar feelings regarding the life of immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants. While Qian's parents were educated professionals in their home country, here they could Who can forget the iconic picture of the Afghan baby being passed over the wall into the waiting arms of the Marine Soldiers? Who could forget the anguished looks of parents trying to get their children and themselves to safety in order to secure a better life. Qian's book describing her resettlement in NYC from China aroused similar feelings regarding the life of immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants. While Qian's parents were educated professionals in their home country, here they could barely get by with menial jobs. Money was extremely tight, the constraint of not knowing the language, the constant fear of being discovered colored their daily lives. Qian lived with a sense of filial responsibility and from early on learned how to be independent as she navigated the streets to her mother's sweat shop, then to school, and then conquering the subway system at such a young age. While her parents were loving to each other in China, the pressures of life in America pulled them apart making them silent accomplices to Qian's confused mental state. Yet, there are moments of great levity as Qian expertly guides us with a child's voice throughout the novel.The novel moves on while the undocumented status continues to paint and color their lives. This is a book that tore my heart out. Save reading her biography until the end. It will make this heartfelt novel even more precious. Thank you to Net Galley for an ARC giving my honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves

    Wang's memoir recounts her experience immigrating to Brooklyn from China, where her parents were professors and her family was persecuted during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, at age 7 and living in poverty as her parents worked in sweatshops in their new country. Wang's story is compelling and told in an accessible way through a child's lens (age 7 through middle school). She talks about the shame of poverty, being treated like she was stupid for not yet knowing English, and then teaching her Wang's memoir recounts her experience immigrating to Brooklyn from China, where her parents were professors and her family was persecuted during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, at age 7 and living in poverty as her parents worked in sweatshops in their new country. Wang's story is compelling and told in an accessible way through a child's lens (age 7 through middle school). She talks about the shame of poverty, being treated like she was stupid for not yet knowing English, and then teaching herself English by reading books like The Very Hungry Caterpiller. My one quibble is that I wish she'd included some insight into her high school and college years...and how she made it to Yale Law School.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Stenger

    This book was interesting. Qian Julie Wang does an excellent job of describing her feelings and experiences as an undocumented child in New York. A major theme of the book was honesty, and this book felt incredibly honest. It had a certain, melancholy vulnerability that was especially noticeable in her love for her parents. It was clear she loved them deeply, but also, they were less than perfect in an environment where survival was a difficult goal. This is hard to convey and Wang does an excel This book was interesting. Qian Julie Wang does an excellent job of describing her feelings and experiences as an undocumented child in New York. A major theme of the book was honesty, and this book felt incredibly honest. It had a certain, melancholy vulnerability that was especially noticeable in her love for her parents. It was clear she loved them deeply, but also, they were less than perfect in an environment where survival was a difficult goal. This is hard to convey and Wang does an excellent job.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Romero

    Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world. I loved that description. It is perfect for this beautifully written memoir. The Chinese word for America, Mei Guo, translates to “beautiful country”. And when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York in 1994, coming with her mother to reunite with her father who has been here for 2 years already, she is almost paralyzed with fear. In China her parents were Professors. In Ameri Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world. I loved that description. It is perfect for this beautifully written memoir. The Chinese word for America, Mei Guo, translates to “beautiful country”. And when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York in 1994, coming with her mother to reunite with her father who has been here for 2 years already, she is almost paralyzed with fear. In China her parents were Professors. In America, they are illegal and must work at menial labor jobs that barely pay the rent much less food or clothes. Her Ma Ma constantly reminds her to stay hidden. Looked down on and shunned by the kids at school and the teachers, her only savior is the library. This is where she learns everything. Her treasures are found on the filthy streets, tossed out by other poor people. She is constantly afraid, hungry, and dirty. Her parents are always fighting. Ma-Ma is tired of sweatshops and wants to go home but Ba Ba is determined to stay. When her mother enrolls in school to get a degree, her father is even angrier. And when a health emergency arrives, they are sure they will be deported. I was amazed at how the author told her childhood story. It was raw and gritty and not at all nice. But through it all, you can just see this little girl was not giving an inch! She belonged here and she made her own opportunities. It broke my heart hearing the way they were treated. Highly educated people are being looked down on and judged because they wanted a life without fear of reprisals from a corrupt government and yet when they got to this land of opportunity, the opportunity is available to those born here. It made me uncomfortable and embarrassed and I think we all need to read this and take a hard look at how we treat immigrants. I hope we hear more of her story. Very Well Done! NetGalley/September 7th, 2021 by Doubleday Books

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bibi

    I found it difficult to like this book and by the author's own admission, the depiction of a young Qian Julie is of a horrid kid - mean, vindictive, a bully, a liar, prone to petty thefts, sneaky ... - all adjectives found in the author's own narrative. Some may argue that circumstances may force someone to be that way. Hopefully this book is cathartic and that with therapy and a self realization of her past self which she is supposedly embarrassed about, that she has emerged as a better person. I found it difficult to like this book and by the author's own admission, the depiction of a young Qian Julie is of a horrid kid - mean, vindictive, a bully, a liar, prone to petty thefts, sneaky ... - all adjectives found in the author's own narrative. Some may argue that circumstances may force someone to be that way. Hopefully this book is cathartic and that with therapy and a self realization of her past self which she is supposedly embarrassed about, that she has emerged as a better person. Another flaw about this book is that the bulk of it focuses on a limited time period when Qian was young and was part of an illegal (I suppose I should be using the euphemism - undocumented) family from China living in New York. Omitted is her life in Canada, her life as a law student, a divorce which is mentioned in passing in her acknowledgements, and essentially what transpired beyond the sixth grade. Many chapters and words are devoted to her wonderful memories of China and her lament about the hardships the family is facing in New York. I must admit that while reading, I thought - why don't you all just return - but then I tamper my thoughts that those are the perspectives of a very young child. Despite her unfavourable comparisons, I did glean a bit more of the Chinese culture over above what I learnt from visiting China, my own wonderful Chinese friends, and of course, books. For example: Chinese kitchens were female spaces so they shared with outhouses the lowest status in the home. Kitchens were often relegated to the smallest, dirtiest, and least ventilated areas. Here is how Qian's father introduced her to North American cuisine: Ba Ba explained that there was no dog meat, that it was just what the Americans called "pizza". And this is her reaction: The food we ate filled us up quickly, cheese, dairy being things we had rarely eaten before...Eating American food was like gulping down giant and instant gratifying bubbles of air. The constant comparison to life in China and life in America becomes ad nauseam. Should we go back to Zhong Guo? Yes, of course, always. China was home and America smelled like pee. Where in Zhong Guo we welcomed guests and gave away extras, we now had no food to spare. I spent my time in the classroom going through my memory's catalog of delicious meals I'd had in Zhong Guo. Why were we expected to speak English perfectly while praising Americans for even the clumsiest dribble of Chinese. And there is the awful role models she witnessed from her parents. Her mother is not averse to spitting in the food for a customer she is serving in a restaurant: ...spat in the dish - so what? she huffed as we walked down Division Street. "they can serve one customer leftovers from another's plate, but I can't spit in some bastard's food. Did they ask me why I did it? They don't give one shit about me." or her routine habit of "instead of turning the handle and rinsing the mug with water, Ma Ma spat into the mug three times and turned it to move her spit around... before making tea for her boss. Or her mama flushing "baby mice down the toilet" in front of her child. Her father, on the other hand, unleashes fury and abuse to a cat. And subject his daughter to the most nauseating joke with his unflushed stink toilet while snickering at his supposed prank. This young girl displays horrid behaviour herself especially with the other children at school where she describes herself as "the brain, the bully, the tomboy." She later sums up her actions via this example: ...she was also so easygoing and self-effacing that she made it impossible for me not to punch down at her, in hopes of lifting myself into the upper social echelon. God, Gloria, you don't even know what R and B is? How much of a loser are you? The cruelty came out before I recognized my own voice. And to think that she herself could not explain what R&B is - what a bold audacious little girl? Makes one wonders what that competitive streak has unleashed in the adult version. Summarily this book provides a glimpse at the life of people who chooses to go to North America outside of the normal immigration channels. Put succinctly, the author describes it thus: undocumented life, fear was gaseous... The novel outlines the hardships of this family as they struggle with menial jobs ( sweat shops and Laundromats...) while living in constant fear. Some parts of the novel are ambiguous, the family continues to go to McDonald's with Lao Jim, a customer the mother met at the hair salon where she works and who she describes as a pervert. Baffling too is the fact that a nine year old is fascinated with biographies of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Thurgood Marshall alongside her fascination with Sweet Valley High and the Babysitter's Club books. Despite the hardships described for this family, I was somehow left bereft of feelings. I can understand how difficult it is for new immigrants adjusting to a new language and culture while trying to carve out a living. Hopefully in the end, decency and goodwill will prevail with all (including newcomers and those with birthrights) but mainly may all newcomers embrace the country which accepts them with gratitude and a deep commitment to preserve the richness and goodness of the beautiful country. Two stars for a novel described as a memoir but disappointingly captures a small section of a life lived.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    9/14/2021 3.5 stars. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 9/14/2021 For the first three-quarters or so of this book, I was absolutely enthralled. Qian Julie Wang tells the story of her relatively prosperous, if politically oppressed life in Northern China before her Ba Ba emigrates to America, followed by herself and her Ma Ma five years later. They overstay their visas, becoming undocumented while Ba Ba and Ma Ma work a series of awful jobs to scrape together a life in Brooklyn, constant 9/14/2021 3.5 stars. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 9/14/2021 For the first three-quarters or so of this book, I was absolutely enthralled. Qian Julie Wang tells the story of her relatively prosperous, if politically oppressed life in Northern China before her Ba Ba emigrates to America, followed by herself and her Ma Ma five years later. They overstay their visas, becoming undocumented while Ba Ba and Ma Ma work a series of awful jobs to scrape together a life in Brooklyn, constantly dodging anyone who might seem to want to deport them. Qian struggles in school even after teaching herself how to read English, less due to her innate abilities than to the less than nurturing attitudes of certain teachers. As the years pass, the corrosive effect of living in the shadows takes its toll on the small family, coming to a head when Ma Ma is hospitalized. Even after her recovery, Ma Ma is further disillusioned by her inability to become documented and thus get a job worthy of the qualifications she's worked so hard to achieve both pre- and post-immigration. So Ma Ma takes a drastic step, and Qian is finally set on a certain path to freedom from the fear of losing everything she loves because of arbitrary employment and status regulations. So, as an open borders absolutist, books that expose the completely ridiculous ways in which people contort themselves to justify denying human rights to migrants are totally my jam. Towards this end, Beautiful Country knocks it out of the park. It's a stain on the moral character of any peoples who allow migrants to work for pennies under inhumane conditions, as the entire Wang family is forced to do. Some of our citizens even have the nerve to decry a shortage of skilled labor while refusing to extend protections to the qualified, further making up arbitrary reasons to harm the vulnerable while still profiting from their exploitation. Jackasses like these don't see immigrants as people, only tools. Fortunately, we have books like Ms Wang's that highlight the humanity of the undocumented by depicting with complete frankness all the trauma that a life of poverty, enforced only by a lack of documentation (which, let's be honest, is fundamentally due to racism,) inflicts upon her and her parents. She has the self-awareness to show how kindness and understanding require effort that the impoverished and hungry often simply can't afford, freely admitting to having been kind of a shit herself, while still calling out the people who don't have this excuse, whose experiences are so limited to their lives of relative privilege that they don't even ask why a child would behave in seemingly self-sabotaging ways, instead assuming it's because she's lazy or indifferent. She catalogs both the people who were kind to her as well as all the ways people were gratuitously unkind, including in this last list her parents and the bizarre pronouncements they would lay on her. It's fascinating and heartbreaking to follow along with a maturing Qian as she sees her father become exactly the opposite of who he'd wanted to be, why he'd left China in the first place. And yet, the book didn't land with me as emotionally as it might have. Ms Wang and I don't share the same sense of humor, which probably doesn't help. I appreciate hiding in the bathroom as much as if not more so than anyone else, but felt it kind of weird that so much time was spent on her bowels without finding a proper, or even any, diagnosis for her childhood ailments. More crucially, the end run Ma Ma makes to solve their problems feels under-explored and, frankly, dissonant with the rest of the memoir. I definitely felt for (view spoiler)[Canada in the way they essentially rescued an abused family only to have the youngest turn around and run right back to her abuser (hide spoiler)] as soon as she was able. I understand Ms Wang's motivations on a visceral level but I really wish she had explored the topic in greater depth. It's one thing to say that NYC was so important to her formatively, and that her father would rather eat America's shit than China's fruits, but a thoughtful examination of why this is would have helped anchor the ending with greater meaning -- after all, just because I feel a certain way doesn't mean that's how or why she did, and I'm basically reading this book because I want to hear her thoughts and opinions. As it is, the chapters about Ms Wang as an adult felt tacked on, making for a poor coda to the vital tale of her childhood, never mind an adolescence that was skimmed over almost entirely. I also had a hard time figuring out whether or not she was castigating Chinese culture for some of the truly awful things that were taught to her -- I'd like to think she was rebuking them, but the tone was uncertain, as if she feared that saying as much meant she was betraying her heritage. But, you know, any book that seeks to lance the weird apathy, if not downright hostility, large swathes of America feel on the subject of "illegal" immigration is a good thing. It takes a lot of courage to admit to the trauma and shame of your past, and Ms Wang certainly does her best to present her experience with honesty. Hopefully, her efforts will encourage the rest of us to keep working towards a world that is more just and kind to people who are looking only to work without exploitation, and hence perhaps to fit in and give back to the communities where they find themselves. Beautiful Country: A Memoir by Qian Julie Wang was published September 7 2021 by Doubleday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including Bookshop!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    What a powerful and moving memoir. I had tissues nearby the whole time I listened to this. So many of the authors lived emotions and experiences resembled my own as a child who immigrated to the US. Qian’s life was hard. The trauma she has endured and carried will tear you apart. The weight of her emotions and the responsibility she carries as she navigates her childhood in America is painful. “Home no longer exists” she says at the end and I know this will stir feelings for a lot of us who have What a powerful and moving memoir. I had tissues nearby the whole time I listened to this. So many of the authors lived emotions and experiences resembled my own as a child who immigrated to the US. Qian’s life was hard. The trauma she has endured and carried will tear you apart. The weight of her emotions and the responsibility she carries as she navigates her childhood in America is painful. “Home no longer exists” she says at the end and I know this will stir feelings for a lot of us who have struggled to find a home after immigrating. The writing was beautiful. It was riveting. It was painful and breathtaking. CW: animal abuse, hunger, sick mother, emotional abuse, immigration.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is memoir about Qian Julie Wang's undocumented life in America. Wang was a seven-year-old Chinese girl who arrived in New York City in 1994. In addition to the cultural shock, she faced rejection, bullying and blatant racism. Although being a Chinese immigrant like Wang, it was still utterly interesting to see her adaptation to and first contact with Western culture. It shows that even in similar backgrounds, our lived experiences as Chinese diaspora aren't homogeneous - we are BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is memoir about Qian Julie Wang's undocumented life in America. Wang was a seven-year-old Chinese girl who arrived in New York City in 1994. In addition to the cultural shock, she faced rejection, bullying and blatant racism. Although being a Chinese immigrant like Wang, it was still utterly interesting to see her adaptation to and first contact with Western culture. It shows that even in similar backgrounds, our lived experiences as Chinese diaspora aren't homogeneous - we are not a monolith. Wang lived in poverty and self-learned English - the thread of trauma is woven into her, which sweet memories walked in parallel with her deepest childhood traumas; and hunger was a constant in contrast to the warm pictures of family's meal time (back in Zhong Guo). In her quest to become less immigrant and more an American citizen, I could empathize with her fear of being caught as Wang was often haunted in her dreams by police officer/uniformed man ready to deport her. What also partly resonated with me was her admiration for her mother and it evoked many hidden emotions. Last but not least, the usage of Chinese pin yin throughout this book warmed my heart. The approachable prose and eloquent words made me flew through the pages. Ringing with power and vulnerability, this is a memoir of resilience that leads towards hope and dreams of an American family. Wang dares to dream, lives intentionally in a country that at first refuses to recognize her yet fights against the invisibility that shadows her very existence. A beautiful memoir! [ I received an ARC from the publisher - Doubleday Books - in exchange for an honest review ]

  27. 5 out of 5

    books4chess

    "Some days, Confucius had large clumps of pigeon poop on his shoulders, and someimtes he even had a pigeon standing proudly atop his head. The statue threw my life into relief. It was a shitty day even for Confucius. Who was I to complain?" The memoir offers a beautifully written, raw account of 'dark' (illegal migration) overflowing with honest recollections and insights into a process hidden to so many. Julie (Qian qian) offers a first hand account of her experience leaving mainland China to e "Some days, Confucius had large clumps of pigeon poop on his shoulders, and someimtes he even had a pigeon standing proudly atop his head. The statue threw my life into relief. It was a shitty day even for Confucius. Who was I to complain?" The memoir offers a beautifully written, raw account of 'dark' (illegal migration) overflowing with honest recollections and insights into a process hidden to so many. Julie (Qian qian) offers a first hand account of her experience leaving mainland China to enter the US and become part of the 'no income' working class, facing a unique - but not uncommon list of barriers. Julie challenged mainstream perspectives that "most of your parents are uneducated. They can only work in sweatshops." with the more unsettling reality seen all over western countries today, of highly educated individuals with skillsets that they aren't allowed to transfer over, reducing them to meagre opportunities and high risk low-reward circumstances. She covers the vulnerability of being thrown into wholly new environments, the disappointing lack of support often delivered from those trusted to take care of us and the all too uncommon fetishisation of Chinese women. The book is short but packs a real punch, with a wide array of Chinese culture and references throughout. I also greatly enjoyed the narration style - writing as her younger self, but with the self-awareness and understanding afforded by hindsight. It's rare to read a memoir of such difficult circumstances that doesn't rely on tired tropes, but the book delivered. I also enjoyed the play on the English translation of America from China - 'beautiful country' - which was repeatedly referenced and set the tone for the reader to read between the lines throughout the story. There's almost too much I can say. I highlighted whole paragraphs and went from laughing in one paragraph to crying in the next. My only true disappointment, was that the book ended where it did, as I desperately wanted to know what happened next. If you're reading this, I eagerly await memoir 2.0. Strongly recommend, 5/5 Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Raw and compelling, Qian Julie Wang’s memoir, Beautiful Country, was a great read. Qian takes us through her childhood, starting in China, where her well-educated parents and extended family members suffer under Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Her father leaves for the United States, called Mei Guo, a name that translates literally to Beautiful Country. She and her mother follow two years later. Arriving in the US at the age of seven, Qian and her family live in startlingly deprived conditio Raw and compelling, Qian Julie Wang’s memoir, Beautiful Country, was a great read. Qian takes us through her childhood, starting in China, where her well-educated parents and extended family members suffer under Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Her father leaves for the United States, called Mei Guo, a name that translates literally to Beautiful Country. She and her mother follow two years later. Arriving in the US at the age of seven, Qian and her family live in startlingly deprived conditions. She learns quickly to trust no one, living in a state of constant anxiety, hunger, and fear of deportation. Always hyper vigilant, she becomes a student of human behavior while she longs to simply not stand out. Even school provides little shelter and support for young Qian, with only the occasional teacher who can look past her smelly and dirty exterior to see the sharp mind and fierce will inside her. Her family eventually finds a more stable life, but the trauma and scars from their years of poverty and fear are not easily shed or mended. Reading this book made me wonder - how many children and young adults like Qian are out there right now? How much human potential is being overlooked and wasted? I volunteer for a local offshoot of Feeding America, loading groceries once a week into the cars of the disabled and working poor. Every time I see a child in one of those cars, I will think of Qian and her hunger for both physical and emotional nourishment. This is a book you will think about for a long time. Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for access to an electronic advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    I received a free electronic ARC of this excellent memoir from Netgalley, Qian Julie Wang, and Doubleday, publisher. Thank you all for sharing this fine work with me. I have read Beautiful Country of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. We are living in an age of massive immigration. Half the world seems to be out there looking for a home. Many have found respite in the USA, people we are glad to welcome to our world. Many we have turned away, if only temporar I received a free electronic ARC of this excellent memoir from Netgalley, Qian Julie Wang, and Doubleday, publisher. Thank you all for sharing this fine work with me. I have read Beautiful Country of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. We are living in an age of massive immigration. Half the world seems to be out there looking for a home. Many have found respite in the USA, people we are glad to welcome to our world. Many we have turned away, if only temporarily. I cannot imagine the stress involved in country shopping, most with small children. Beautiful Country takes us through the process with young Qian Julie Wang. It makes it so much easier to sympathize and offer an extended hand when you understand the almost impossible process of getting here legally and to see the pain involved in being here illegally. We are a land of immigrants with room and hope to spare. We need to improve the process of validation, speed up the waiting time and make provision for families with young children to stay together throughout the whole process. We should continue to be a nation of immigrants. New ones, too. It is, after all, who we are. pub date September 7, 2021 Doubleday Reviewed on September 4, 2021, at Goodreads and Netgalley. Reviewed on Sept 8, 2021, at AmazonSmile, Barnes&Noble, BookBub, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I had an ARC of this book. I’ve read so many memoirs of trauma and I am amazed by each- The Glass Castle, Educated, Hillbilly Elegy. I work in mental health and I grew up with trauma, you read to know you aren’t alone and you read to make yourself feel not quite as bad as the author you are reading. So Beautiful Country was suggested to me. I read it in a day. I’ve never read from anyone undocumented persons point of view, let alone a child. This was sad and raw and real. This is the answer when I had an ARC of this book. I’ve read so many memoirs of trauma and I am amazed by each- The Glass Castle, Educated, Hillbilly Elegy. I work in mental health and I grew up with trauma, you read to know you aren’t alone and you read to make yourself feel not quite as bad as the author you are reading. So Beautiful Country was suggested to me. I read it in a day. I’ve never read from anyone undocumented persons point of view, let alone a child. This was sad and raw and real. This is the answer when you hear people ask why come to America illegally. Because what they are coming from is way worse. This is a chance. I mean to read what the author and her mother went through for unemployment while she was a child. The fear drilled in her that they could be deported at any moment. How scary and traumatic for a child. The absolute poverty they must have been in- it’s unimaginable. I think everyone should read this- the more you can understand and see where people are coming from and what they’ve been through, the more we can all recognize that we are all humans. As Americans we can’t just write off people here illegally- they are human too. It breaks my heart to think of the conditions people live in and go through just to be here. A well written book that will stick with me.

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